For the Jews, Deuteronomy 6:4 is known as the Shema and is their great confession of faith: “Hear, O, Israel. Jehovah our God is one Jehovah.” This great command obviously requires a correct and appropriate response from us. The response for the Shema, is found in the next verse v6:5 and reads “And you shall love Jehovah your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.”
These foundational verses demonstrate clearly the “command & response” understanding of the Bible. It can also be understood as two types of theology – on one hand ‘indicative theology’ and on the other ‘imperative theology’, or more simply ‘indicative – imperative’ or ‘revelation – response’. All are the same ways of describing the same recurrent patterns throughout the Bible.
We can also understand it this way: whatever God reveals to us about Himself (e.g. about His deeds of His will for us), then there is always a required response, an appropriate and correct response from us. It is in direct relationship with His revelation.
We can see this recorded in the New Testament, especially form the writers from a Jewish background and training. For them, such phraseology and writing styles came as second nature.
Keeping with the New Testament now, in First John 4:6-7 we read “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and everyone who loves has been born of God, and knows God. The one who does not love has not known God. For God is love.” Basically here John writes “God is love” but his indicative theology here clearly encompassed the imperative “love one another.” He then expands upon this indicative – imperative around “God is love” in v10-11 when he says “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation concerning our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.”
In the same letter, John writes in First John 1:5-7 “And this is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.” Here as he changes the analogy he says simply “God is light.” We are required to walk in that light.
First John 2:29 tells us clearly that “God is righteous” as he writes “If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who does righteousness has been born of Him.” and First John 3:7 “Little children, let no one deceive you. He who does righteousness is righteous, even as that One is righteous.” The response, the imperative for us is “to be righteous” as only those who are righteous can be considered as being born of Him!
The teaching here is plain and simple. Right belief must be matched with right behaviour, within a right life style. This supports the teaching and instructions from Jesus himself in Matthew 28:20 where He says in regard to the training of the new disciples for the Great Commission: “teaching them to observe all things, whatever I commanded you.”
We cannot get by as born-again Christians relying on the milk of our relationship youth. We need to be weaned onto meat – from the milk of the Gospel to the meat of the Gospel. The baby in swaddling clothes from that manger in Bethlehem has grown and became our Lord Jesus Christ and is seated in Heaven. We need to do the same and grow in Him.
Amen and Amen.
This teaching is based on the ideas from page 125 of the book “Grounded in the Gospel – Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way” by J.I. Packer and Garry A. Parrett.